Preventing Abuse of Laundry Equipment, Furnishings

This sign about checking pants pockets before washing saved customers and his laundry’s staff a lot of grief, author Paul Russo says. It also reduced dryer damage, he believes. (Photo courtesy Paul Russo)

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Preventing Abuse of Laundry Equipment, Furnishings (Conclusion)

Active management is needed to protect your property

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sooner or later, some people will abuse your laundromat, either from general rough treatment or even deliberately. Kids can be a steady source of abuse, from climbing on carts and swinging on doors or more.

There are a lot of angry people out there walking among us, and not many people enjoy having to do their laundry in the first place, so some may come to your mat already in a bad mood.

Aside from doing what you can to get the best “people-proofed” equipment and furnishings, I have some ideas for how you can prevent abuse. I presented some in Part 1 and Part 2, and conclude here:

Encourage Reporting When Equipment Malfunctions — If you aren’t aware that a machine is working improperly, you won’t be fixing it very soon, will you? Guess what happens? One customer after another gets aggravated until you get one who blows up and starts kicking the machine.

Obviously, attendants are the best solution for ensuring equipment is working. Otherwise, you need “Out of Order” cards for customers to hang on the washer or, better yet, list an email address where they can send their concerns and complaints. Make sure your signage guides them to list the day, date, time, and machine number as part of their report.

Keep the Restroom Nice — Unfortunately, some customers are real jerks and will deliberately vandalism your restroom.

More often, it’s outsiders who will disrespect your restroom property. You’d think they’d be grateful that you’re letting them use it, right? In most cases, yes, but some people are so miserable, hurting your property can make them feel a little better about themselves.

Lock your restroom door. If you have a card store, put a card reader on the door so only customers can unlock it. Keep the key behind the counter.

Now, you can’t put a camera inside a restroom for obvious reasons but you can place one observing the door so it records who goes in and out. If you’re having trouble with restroom vandalism, it’s usually one person at a given time, so have your crew check the restroom each time someone walks out and then document the condition.

Or just have them do hourly cleanliness checks and fill out a form with the details. You’ll be able to determine who was the culprit, what they look like, and when the property damage happened.

Look to National Fast-Food Outlets for Guidance — Most of us have been to fast-food restaurants. They encounter many of the same issues with the public that self-service laundry owners do, or maybe more. They serve many customers a day that come in every size, shape, age and ethnic background. Food and beverage is a tough business, and restaurants must deal with messy tables, damaged furnishings and customers in every frame of mind, not to mention the homeless who can spend hours handing around.

So the next time you grab a burger, check out the place to see what materials they use for chairs, tables and walls. How are their restrooms built and managed? You might be able to pick up some information to help your own store situation.

Try Limiting the Homeless in Your Mat — The homeless have to do their laundry, too, and have every right to!

However, for any laundromat to operate smoothly, all customers must leave after their laundry is finished so there’s room for the next customer—and this includes the homeless. Your mat is not a place to crash or to set up a sleeping station, so clearly establish and communicate your relevant policies and procedures to keep everyone moving.

The tips I’ve offered here may help—and I hope they do—but in the end, there’s only so much you can do. Abuse and disrespect of your equipment is a societal problem that goes far beyond the individual shopkeeper.

Still, you can’t give up. Active management is needed to protect your property.

Miss earlier parts of this article? You can read them here: Part 1 - Part 2

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].